Saturday, March 29, 2008

Strangelets and Graupel

The day began with snow again and a weird word, “strangelet,” in a front page story in The New York Times.

Seems that a couple of scientific skeptics fear that a giant proton accelerator/smasher that will be switched on this summer in Switzerland (they should stick to clocks and chocolate) could produce a black hole and suck the planet into nothingness.

Or, under cheery Option B, the accelerator/smasher could produce something called a "strangelet" that would, and here I quote the Times, "convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called ‘strange matter.’"

Strange matter, indeed. What on Earth are these Swiss physicists thinking?

Well, the skeptics have actually taken the matter to court in Hawaii to have it all looked into by a judge. Sounds vaguely like a protest junket to me, but whatever it takes.

So that’s where it stands with the “strangelets.”

(Red Electric reader Gary Gilbert wrote after this was originally posted and suggested this information on "the precautionary principle" as being relevant to the above. I agree.)

Then, as strange as strangelets came the weather forecast in The Oregonian calling for “graupel.”

Here is Matt Zaffino, TV weather, oh-so-nice guy, writing in the paper, telling us to expect graupel. According to Matt, this stuff, and I quote," forms under the same process as hail, but it begins with snowflakes instead of raindrops. Updrafts in the clouds carry the snowflakes upward, adding ice. They fall when they're heavy enough to overcome the updraft."

And sure enough, around 4 p.m. we got graupeled. The stuff is kind of like Styrofoam hail, which is a whole lot better than a Swiss-made black holes or strangelets.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

A Two-Season Day

We woke to accumulating snow, but by mid-day, it was as if it had never happened. But here's proof that it did. As for tomorrow...who knows?

The top photo is Gabriel Park with a December look about it.

The house below is our hillside igloo.

The two shots of the flowers show the same cluster of daffodils just hours apart. Talk about resilience and renewal.

In the first photo, the blossom in the background is protected by a shrub. They should all be so lucky.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

A trip to get the oil changed

It was just a trip to Handy Andy’s Auto Service to get the oil changed this morning.

The snow had stopped (yes we got a light dusting this morning, but, again, nothing stuck.) Garry and Andy were ready to take the RAV4, giving me an hour to kill in Multnomah Village.

Ah, the joy of it!

Life is good.

I figured I’d wander over to the Multnomah Arts Center, plunk down in an easy chair and read today’s New York Times.

Richard from Annie Bloom’s book store stopped me on the sidewalk to congratulate me and the Hillsdale News for our scoop on the Multnomah Farmers’ Market.

Annie had a green Remington #3 portable in the window, so I let Richard and the clerk know about my typewriter collection. They seemed interested in a window display. I referred them to my Back Space Typewriters site, where there’s a page devoted to my current University of Portland display.

On to the Multnomah Arts Center. Turned out that the Loaves and Fishes/Neighborhood House rummage sale was in full swing. I’m a sucker for all things rummage. The voyeuristic hodge-podgery of it all.

Alas, no typewriters (which is probably just as well) but I did score a tin, recipe box ($1), of which I have several now (don’t ask); a 304-piece jigsaw puzzle of Monticello (25 cents) and one of those floating compasses for mounting on the dash of the car ($3). (see photo above)

So I escaped for $4.25. Not bad. Never did read the Times.

Back at Handy Andy’s to pick up the RAV, I noticed a 1951 Chevy Deluxe sedan parked next to the garage and decided to feast my eyes (and camera) on the chrome and patina (cracked paint, rust spots).

"It won’t start," Garry says, but he and Andy are going to try bring it back to life for its owner, who bought it dead on a whim.

I told Garry that my mom had a primrose yellow 1952 Chevy convertible back in the dawn of time. He didn’t seem impressed. He and Andy, who hale from those days, have seen 'em all.

And now you’ve seen this one.

To think that this all started as a trip to get the oil changed.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

December in March

This photo doesn't quite capture it, but that's snow at noon today in front of our house. It was coming down in cotton swab globs but not sticking. Tonight could be another story.


Daniel Speaks

Daniel Ronan, an early Obama adopter, is a frequent visitor to this blog. He wants you to know that he has posted on the widely read Daily Kos.

He reports there that University of Oregon students stuck around Eugene during spring break just to hear Obama speak. Change IS in the wind.

Daniel graduated from Wilson High last year and was one of the inspired instigators of the senior peace-symbol-planting prank that turned into a feel-good neighborhood clean-up party for Wilson.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We are verbs disguised as nouns

The following grew out of a sharing session we had at our Quaker meeting last Sunday. Marge Abbott, who has written about how various Quaker groups differ (and agree) about faith, got us to talking about beliefs.

Marge asked us to choose one of several sentences posted separately on the walls of the room. Each statement briefly described a different way of relating to life’s purpose. We formed small groups around each statement. Later we would report to the larger group.

I joined five others to discuss:

“A life that makes present and visible the realm of the invisible spirit.”

Our group agreed we were drawn to the statement because, unlike several others, this one didn’t mention “God.” For some of us, the word “God” seemed to limit, well, “God.” We agreed that the word “Spirit” is broadening, even liberating. As one person put it, it is “free of a lot of ‘God’ baggage.” Stuff like fear and retribution.

Nevertheless, I had a couple misgivings about the statement. I believe the invisible needn’t be “made visible,” (leave it well enough alone) except in some metaphorical sense. “Realm” implied a monarchy and seemed vaguely Biblical (The Kingdom of God etc.) and out of keeping with the deeper meaning and liberating tone of the statement.

And then the word “spirit,” though far better than “God,” seemed static, frozen — unspirit-like.

As we shared our thoughts about the statement, I concluded that one of the strongest words in it was “makes,” the verb. Several people commented that they were drawn to lives of being, acting, doing — making.

At that point, I saw that the statement’s nouns needed to be considered as disguised verbs. I experimented with adding “ing” to them. One, “life” to “living,” was easy. But the new words intrigued me: “realm-ing” and “spirit-ing.” I even tried out on the adjectives: “present-ing” and “visibl-ing.”

Suddenly the words, indeed the whole sentence, sprang to life. Then it occurred to me that nouns (and adjectives) everywhere, could spring to life if we recognized them as verbs in disguise. Many of them ARE life.

Mulling this over yesterday, I toyed with what it means to be a “human being,” and I realized that the work of “verbing the noun” already had been done for me. What is a human if not being? Human being to be exact.

Alan Watts often made the same point in his lectures. I continue to listen to Watts’ recorded talks when I work out (Watts would find that strange, even perverse). At one point Watts’ described what would happen when he died. “I’ll stop being Alan Watts and start being something else,” he said. At the time of his talk, and throughout his life, he was, he said, "Alan Watts-ing."

We are all "being" the same with the person we have been given for this short time.

And in so "being" we are constantly changing. We are not fixed. You and I are not the same “beings” as we were 10 years, 10 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes,10 seconds, 10 nano-seconds ago — because we are verbs, not nouns.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Multnomah Village Farmers Market

Those of you interested in the Portland farmers' market scene might want to go to my Hillsdale News site for news about plans to open a market in Multnomah Village this June.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

On anonymity

Over the last couple of days, I’ve engaged in a long and tendentious exchange with an anonymous commenter to a Red Electric post about Obama’s Philadelphia speech last week.

“Anonymous” has chosen to address me as “Rick” repeatedly. There’s an implied familiarity, which I am unable to reciprocate because I have no idea who is writing.

Frankly, I find it annoying (being an annoyance may be the writer’s intention) and disingenuous to have an anonymous writer address me personally. Imagine getting a phone call from someone who doesn’t give you his or her name but who addresses you by yours.

Of course, anonymity has its uses, but I see them as being applicable only rarely to comments to a blog like this one.

To me, anonymity reflects an unwillingness for writers to take personal responsibility for their words. Such writers can’t be held to account for what they write, and so they can, and sometimes do, write anything. There is no way to know whether they believe what they write. (Having said that, I have no reason to believe that my current anonymous correspondent is insincere in his or her beliefs.)

On the other hand, you could argue that as long as the comments are opinion, and not statements of fact, there’s no real harm done. The words should be judged on their face value — never mind who wrote them.

By the way, I have sometimes referred to incidents and comments without naming the people involved because the names themselves aren't relevant.

So when else is anonymity justified?

In journalism, we try to avoid anonymous sources. The only time anonymity can be justified is when the use of a name might endanger the source or cost him or her a job. By the way, courts, by forcing journalists to reveal names of anonymous sources, undermine the ability of journalists to gather information from anonymous sources. If a journalist can’t ensure anonymity in the courtroom, sources dry up.

Of course, journalists also must satisfy themselves that the information given to them by anonymous sources is true. They often do so by finding corroborating, independent sources.

The other time anonymity is justified is when someone does a good deed or has a clever idea but doesn’t seek credit or publicity for it.

All of which has led me to think about how to treat anonymous comments to this site. Recently as “the site administrator,” I have been deleting pseudonymous comments that simply are links that turn out to be to commercial sites.

Now, to encourage correspondents to put their names on their words, I’m seriously considering deleting anonymous comments that don’t meet the above journalistic parameters.

I’d appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Please do not respond anonymously!

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